Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hard Teachings: the "Gospel of Life" or the "Gospel of Life-After-Death"

I have been very thankful of late that God has brought me across a lot of Christians whose beliefs I am not only in disagreement with, but which sometimes shock me. In my earlier years, most of my "shocks" were constrained to my interactions with strict Catholics (salvation by works) and militant charismatics (salvation by speaking in tongues). I generally felt like the "enlightened" and "tolerant" one, because I could answer their arguments easily and show that my faith was superior and more thought out. They sometimes respected my calm, reasoned approach, and sometimes told me frankly that they thought I was damned. But generally, I walked away unchanged from the experience. But these recent "shocks" have been far more useful because (1) I walk away humbled and (2) the arguments are often those I can't easily answer.

Take for instance this post from a "reformed Christian" (and he doesn't mean the classical definition). This Christian went to a funeral of a teen killed in a driving accident, where he faced a eulogy given by an evangelistically-minded pastor who used it as an opportunity to reach out to those who would not normally see the inside of a church, and gave a gospel message. My reaction would have been "Well done. Take every opportunity to present the gospel." His reaction, "This man is trying to deny the family their right to grieve, and is preaching a gospel of death." Wow.

Click on thru, if you are up to a challenge to the "Evangelical" view. But be aware there is some strong (some would say profane) language, due to the emotions involved. I originally hesitated to post this, because I knew it would disturb some and because I feel the poster is wrong on many points. But I think it is a useful article for illustrating the kinds of hard questions we really need to be thinking about and ready to answer for ourselves.


"Nick" said...

I think he has a good point. Granted, his information is second hand, but it is what he was thinking, and therefore could reasonably be construed to be what a nominal or non-Christian would be thinking. I'm sure to the pastor, maybe to us, the message sounded pretty normal, but to a non-Christian or nominally Christian audience, it probably didn't to console much and could get them angry and depressed even more than they already were. You have to remember your audience...

And some of my reaction is probably based on a more Reformed (in the classic sense) view of the Gospel (though, I should point out, I am far from a five pointer:)

Good post, lots of good questions and thoughts raised...

Sean said...

for some time i have been against evangelizing at funerals and this story serves as an extreme reason why. people need time to grieve and while thoughts of their own future are important at this point in their life it's kind of torture to make them think about potentially going to hell - especially since their life feels like hell now.

Jesus mourned the death of Lazarus, even though he knew that Lazarus was going to be living in a few minutes. To tell people that they shouldn't mourn for a loved one that has died is both biblically inaccurate and psychologically naive. To cloak that in the idea that evangelizing people is more important or somehow makes it worthwhile is plain stupidity.

There are lots of ways of evangelizing people and this particular method at this time in people's lives is just wrong.

shadowmom1 said...

I want my funeral to be an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus. If Christ is not shared (and honored), it will be a wasted hour. Of course, as a believer, the sharing will be a comfort to my family.

This pastor apparently did a bad job in his approach, but I believe his motivation was right.

Suricou Raven said...

Is that all? I could use Christianity to justify far worse things than upsetting a captive audience of mourners. If non-believers go to Hell, then Christians should be doing everything they can to convert others - up to and including violence, brainwashing, intimidation, threats and torture. After all, those people will be thankful after they are dead.

Abusing a captive audience (They can hardly walk out on a funeral) to give them the fire-and-brimstone hard sell is quite mild in comparison, but the princible is the same: All means are justified when salvation is at stake.

On a similar view, I could argue that if a Christian appears to be questioning their faith, it is the duty of other Christians to murder them - kill the body, but save the soul.

It is fortunate I am not a Christian, because if I were I think I could take out a few people before the police caught up to me.

CRCHAIR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CRCHAIR said...

Wow, Suricou. I don't know what American Christians you are reading about or talking to.

What you said is like saying that everyone who is Pro-Life must be in favor of bombing abortion clinics because then some abortions will end.

I know you just wanted a reaction, but some of us Christians do believe that Jesus Christ is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" No one goes to heaven except by him. But do believe that each person has the freedom to choose to follow him or not.

Ward said...

lol...Read his blog for a minute and you'll see his mind isn't exactly the most open one in the world. But then, it's a lot harder to actually work through the questions and so he, like every fundamentalist, simply asserts his view as "fact" that is beyond the comprehension of the average human who might disagree with him.

Suricou Raven said...

Not exactly. Im just good at seeing inconsistancies and contradictions. I see many of then in modern christianity.

For example, I see a contradiction whenever someone claims that non-believers will go to hell and that they support freedom of religion for all. This makes no sense: Why are they supporting the right of others to spread religions that condemn others to hell?

Moderate religion, to me, is logically nonsense - to simutainously hold an absolute conviction and a support for the american princibles of freedom of speech and religion creates a severe cognative dissonance.

Contrast it with something like an Islamic theocracy, like Iran or Saudi Arabia. Its oppressive, its restrictive... but its internally consistant. They act like they really believe their religion.

Ward said...

I fail to see the contradiction. Sure, I believe that each of us has an eternal destiny. And I believe that when everything else is accounted for, we will either be with God or apart from Him. Logically then, I want people to come to accept the 'Truth" that I hold to so that they can take part in such a hope, yes. However, that does not contradict me believing that we are each free to choose as we will anyway. It is a choice that each of us must make. If you call that inconsistent, then we simply have a vastly different view of consistency.

I think that public education is a good thing, but I don't believe that parents should have to send their children if they choose to elect home schooling. Is that inconsistent?

I think accepting blood transfusions in emergencies is a good thing, but I don't believe that people should be forced to do so. is that inconsistent?

Believing that something is good, important, or even vital, but believing that each person must make that choice of their own free will is not inconsistent to me. We do it a hundred times a day in our lives. Why should believing the same thing spiritually be any different?